ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

CBR11 Archive

Saturday

9

March 2019

0

COMMENTS

American Kingpin by Nick Bilton

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
People who enjoy investigative journalism told in narrative form.

In a nutshell:
A very Libertarian dude decides to make a statement and start a website that sells drugs. Things spiral. The federal government gets involved in multiple ways.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
After listening to Bad Blood, I needed another audio book for my runs. Memoirs have been my go-to in this format, but I think they have been replaced, as it’s easy to stay invested when it’s essential real-life suspense. And bonus: the narrator for this book happened to be the same one, and I like his style, so double-win.

Review:
I was vaguely aware of the Silk Road website, where people could buy and sell drugs and other contraband, but I had no idea about the story behind it. And OH MY GOD is it absurd. Like, this young guy with very specific ideals who is desperate to be successful in some realm just .. Starts a site. And it blows up to the point that it is doing hundreds of thousands of dollars of business a week.

A week.

What?!

The story alternates among a few major players: the site’s founder, two different homeland security inspectors, the FBI, and an IRS agent. The personalities are strong and interesting. Some people make horrible decisions. Some people make good decisions. And I yell “Are you KIDDING ME?” at least every 15 minutes. I felt like I was listening to a suspense novel, and then had to remind myself that this was real life.

If the whole Theranos situation has you intrigued, I think you’ll find this an interesting read as well.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it

Tuesday

5

March 2019

0

COMMENTS

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
Anyone who enjoys a true story about shady people who (for the most part) get what’s coming to them.

In a nutshell:
An experienced Elizabeth Holmes convinces a lot of people that she is on to the next big thing in biotechnology. She isn’t, and she gets VERY touchy when people point that out. Also, lots of powerful old white guys make some absurd financial decisions.

Worth quoting:
N/A

Why I chose it:
I listened to the podcast “The Drop Out,” which is just a few episodes long, but was definitely enough to get me interested.

Review:
Oh MY god did I love this book. I purchased the audio version and planned to listen to it during some long runs I have coming up. Instead, I could barely put it down, and listened to it every chance I got. It is a meticulously researched book, and Carreyrou explains complicated things (like how blood tests work) in ways that are not condescending or difficult to understand. The story develops slowly but never drags, as Carreyrou lays out the entire fiasco step by step.

What it comes down to is the Elisabeth Holmes was — is — a fraud. I think she started out with an idea (blood testing without the needles), and then became like a dog with a bone. She couldn’t and wouldn’t accept anyone disagreeing with her, because she was going to change the world. I don’t believe she was motivated by greed or money; I think she was fully motivated by her ego. She couldn’t dare admit that she was in over her head, or that her company Theranos wasn’t able to do what she promised; she just kept lying to others (and possibly herself) in the hopes that everything would work itself out.

The story is at times unbelievable. The number of attorneys involved. The cloak and dagger way the company treated its ‘trade secrets.’ The threatening letters. The lawsuits. The firings of anyone who questions anything. To think that people act this way — and think it is justified — is distressing to say the least. And frankly, I reserve about as much disgust for the attorneys who did Elisabeth Holmes’s bidding as I do for Holmes and her C-suite colleagues. The way the tormented people is offensive.

One area I think could have been developed a little bit more is the exploration of what the failures of the blood testing did to people’s lives. Carreyrou does share some stories of those who were harmed — such as a woman who ended up with $3,000 in unnecessary medical bills — but that can at times get lost in the story. And of course many of the whistle-blowers were motivated by the danger that faulty blood testing can cause, but it still wasn’t necessarily woven in as much as I would have liked. But that’s a very minor quibble, because it’s definitely discussed.

A little more than halfway through the book, the author become part of the story. It’s a slightly dramatic moment, but I think it is handled very well. The investigation of the Wall Street Journal article that predates the book is a huge reason why Theranos has been sued and why some of its leadership have been charged with crimes. It would be impossible for him to stay out of it, and the book would have suffered greatly without his perspective being shared in this way.

There were many moment when I got so angry at the things people were getting away with, but the last couple of chapters — I mean, there are some serious just deserts being served. It’s chef’s kiss come to life.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: Keep it. And probably listen again soon.

Thursday

28

February 2019

0

COMMENTS

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Written by , Posted in Reviews

4 Stars

Best for:
People who enjoy autobiographies that don’t feel overly edited or ghost written.

In a nutshell:
Former (sob) First Lady Michelle Obama tells her story, from early childhood through her departure from the White House.

Worth quoting:
“This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path — the my-isn’t-that-impressive path — and keep you there for a long time.”
“…because having been brought up in a family where everyone always showed up, I could be extra let down when someone didn’t show.”
“As the only African American First Lady to set foot in the White House I was ‘other’ almost by default. If there was a presumed grace assigned to my white predecessors, I knew it wasn’t likely to be the same for me.”

Why I chose it:
I mean, duh. It’s Michelle Obama. How could I not?

Review:
I love the fact that Obama doesn’t become First Lady of the U.S. until page 282 in a 426 page book. She was only First Lady for eight years, but I can see a lesser publishing house or editor wanting to really focus on those eight years. In fact, given what was kept in and what was left out, I can see that this could EASILY have been a two-book volume. Instead, it is a true auto-biography that gives us real insight into who Michelle Robinson is, and how her life became entwined with our 44th President.

Obama is a great writer. I found her stories evocative, and interesting. I could picture the apartment she grew up in, her law office, her family. And while fairly early on her future husband enters the picture, the focus is still on her and how she experienced all these adventures. He’s almost a minor character; I feel like I get more of a sense of her children than her husband. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing — he tells his story, and has told his story, many times. This is about HER and how she felt about the things she has experienced as a Black woman filling a role that no Black woman has filled before.

It was hard to read again about some of the political things — reading asshole Mitch McConnell’s offensive and frankly anti-American comments, and being reminded of how aggressively Republicans fought to harm so many people in the US by blocking any sort of progress, just pissed me off even more than my regularly daily pissed-offedness thanks to the current President. But it was fascinating to learn a bit more about how the White House works, and how their family adjusted to that life.

I found myself relating to her in some ways – she is a planner, and super organized, and had a good home life growing up. I related hard to the quote I included up top, about staying on a path because one is worried about what other’s might think. I spent most of my youth through the end of college thinking I was going to be a lawyer, and it wasn’t until the summer before I was supposed to enroll at UCLA Law that I got the courage to tell my folks I didn’t want to do that. I had to figure everything out from scratch, and it terrified me. And I did another form of that again a year ago, when I moved overseas and left my career behind. For some of us its hard to not care what other people think, and it was refreshing to see someone be so honest about that.

There were definitely quite a few things that were either edited out or just never written. There is virtually nothing in there about her time in law school, which I found odd. But there is a lot about her time in college, so perhaps the two experiences weren’t different enough to be considered compelling reading? There is also not a ton in the White House, nor a lot about the second Presidential campaign. It’s a good read, but some of it does feel a bit ‘wait, you’re not even going to mention that?’, which is what kept me from giving it the full five stars.

I started this book in January and found myself only reading it in spurts, primarily because I tend to read on the go, and this book is HUGE. It was just too heavy to cart back and forth. But I sucked it up and read the back half in two days. So it’s not a slow read, or a dense read, but it’s not a book you can stick in a small purse and bring with you on the bus.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: Keep it AND Pass to a Friend

Friday

8

February 2019

1

COMMENTS

Give People Money by Annie Lowrey

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone interested in changing the world, addressing poverty, or fixing the ills of capitalism.

In a nutshell:
What would the world — or just the US — look like if every single person received money every single month. Regardless of need. Regardless of ability to work. Just to keep them at a baseline level of existence, out of poverty.

Worth quoting (so much – sorry!):
“We no longer have a jobs crisis … but we do have a good-jobs crisis, a more permanent, festering problem that started more than a generation ago.”
“…we find no evidence that cash transfers reduce the labor supply, while service sector workers appear to have increased their hours of work.”
“Providing the poor with those steps might mean seeing them as deserving for no other reason than their poverty — something that is not and has never been part of this country’s social contract. We believe that there is a moral difference between taking a home mortgage interest deduction and receiving a Section 8 voucher.”

Why I chose it:
The train to a friend’s wedding was delayed, so we had some time and I hadn’t brought a book (damn tiny fancy purses). Said fuck it and bought this. I met said friend in a philosophy program where I first heard universal basic income even mentioned, so it seemed appropriate.

Review:
This book is FASCINATING. I was expecting an examination of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and how it can help in places in the world where people live on less than $2 per day, and it does offer that. But author Lowrey spends the majority of the book looking at what UBI could do for the US. And after reading it, I’m still a bit up in the air about how it can work in practice, but absolutely on board for it in theory.

Lowrey’s starts by looking at the reality that jobs are going to start shrinking in hours and eventually going away as we become a more automated society. Driverless cars and trucks will put loads of people out of work — what are we to do with them? Some sectors will shrink and disappear (coal mining), and we haven’t necessarily seen the commensurate growth in other sectors. If everyone was guaranteed enough money to survive, then those who do not want to work 40+ hour weeks, or those who can’t, wouldn’t be subjected to life lived homeless.

But that’s not the main point of Lowrey’s book. We don’t need UBI because some jobs are going away; we need UBI because it can help address numerous societal wrongs right here in the US. Her chapter on racism and how US policies over the years have kept people of color from acquiring wealth and a rate anywhere near that of white people is brilliant, and a chapter I will be referring back to often. She also explores how the care economy and the work that women overwhelmingly do is completely undervalued, and a UBI could raise those workers up. And of course she is deeply interested in the overall poverty rate in the US. I think this is an absolutely true and desperately sad statement:

“The issue is not that the Unites States cannot pull its people above the poverty line, but that it does not want to.”

Lowrey is not oblivious to the problems of implementation. We already have a serious issue in the US of people disparaging and looking down upon people living in poverty; if benefits programs were re-organized and some of the benefits middle-class people have become used to getting go away, that resentment will build. Plus, if everyone in the US gets UBI, how we decide who qualifies? Only citizens? Legal residents? What will that do to a country that is already so deeply fucked up when it comes to immigration?

Finally, she looks at how we might pay for this, and this is the one area that I wish she spent more time on (and what brings this from a five-star to a four-star book for me). I have zero problem with giving people money for existing. I don’t think we should sentence people to lives without homes or health care because their ability or desire to work doesn’t match mine. But the money has to come from somewhere, right? Taxes on workers? Businesses? Carbon? ROBOTS? (seriously, it’s an interesting idea).

There is not enough political will for this to be a real thing in the US right now. But I think it deserves serious examination. There is no reason why anyone in the US — let along the world — should be living in poverty. No reason. We just have to have the courage to make some real changes.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it (and buy copies for other people)

Monday

4

February 2019

0

COMMENTS

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone interested in a quick read about family, crime,and the choices we make.

In a nutshell:
Korede’s sister Ayoola has just killed her third boyfriend. Korede has once again helped dispose of the body. Next up on Ayoola’s dance card? Korede’s coworker, who she has feelings for.

Worth quoting:
“I console myself with the knowledge that even the most beautiful flowers wither and die.”

Why I chose it:
I’ve seen so many people talking about it, and it sounded interesting.

Review:
What would you do if a close relative killed someone? How about three someones? Would you help them bury the bodies? Would it matter if there was a chance — however slight — that each act was an act of self-defense?

One of the pull quotes on the back of my copy (courtesy of Marie Claire) calls this ‘The wittiest and most fun murder party you’ve ever been invited to.’ I think that’s a pretty gross mischaracterization of the story. It’s not ‘fun’ and it’s not meant to be fun. There’s no murder party. It’s an exploration of values and the limits (if there are any) of what we do for the love of family.

I could go on, but I think many of you have heard of this book, and hopefully you’re planning to read it. If you’re expecting a ‘fun murder party,’ you might be a bit disappointed. But if that pull quote turned you off a bit, I hope you’ll reconsider, because I think this is an enjoyable, interesting, and well-told story.

This book is SUCH a quick read that I do sort of wish I’d checked it out of the library. It’s just over 220 pages, but many pages are only 1/2 full of text, given the author’s style. Plus, with a pretty big font, it honestly is more like 100 pages. Longer than a novella, but not really. Still worth checking out though.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Pass to a friend

Saturday

19

January 2019

0

COMMENTS

The Communication Book by Mikael Krogerus & Roman Tschäppeler

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Two Stars

Best for:
Perhaps people who need to negotiate? Or maybe people who just want a quick reference of different ideas or theories on communication? I’m not totally sure.

In a nutshell:
An attempt at narrowing down — into two pages and a diagram — theories of communication.

Worth quoting:
“Negotiating properly means everyone gets more than they expected to.”

Why I chose it:
I was about a week away from starting up an office job for the first time in nearly a year, and figured I could use a refresher on communicating with people who aren’t my partner or friends.

Review:
I’m not sure what this book is. It’s not a book that you read cover to cover (well, I did, but I didn’t need to). It is more of a reference book. And while the ideas the authors explore are loosely collected into communication realms (Job and Career, Self and Knowledge, Love and Friendship, Words and Meanings), I didn’t notice much of a difference between certain ideas that warranted them being siloed into such categories. But I appreciate the attempt at good organization.

I think this book would work much better in a larger format, where one page is the diagram of the idea (and the diagrams are cute and somewhat helpful), and one page is the overview / explanation. There isn’t a lot of content here — each section is a very high-level overview — so my suggestion would result in a much thinner book, but I think that book would be better for it. The diagrams all take up two pages, which means there’s the spine smack in the middle. It’s hard to read.

The fact that I don’t recall much of what I read, and that my focus is on organization and formatting should be a hint as to why I’m not a big fan of this book. I appreciate the concept and even some of the content, but the execution just didn’t work for me.

Keep it / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it, because it might be a good reference point.

Wednesday

16

January 2019

0

COMMENTS

Cheating by Deborah L. Rhode

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
People who enjoy the academic rigor of a peer-reviewed book, but actually want to enjoy reading said book. Also, people who find the idea of cheating (in all its forms) fascinating.

In a nutshell:
Law professor and legal ethicist Rhode examines why people cheat, and what society can do to mitigate those tendencies.

Worth quoting:
“Totally honest, incorruptible people constitute about 10 percent of the population. Totally dishonest people who will cheat in a wide variety of situations account for about 5 percent. The other 85 percent appear basically honest, but will succumb to temptation depending on the situation.”

Why I chose it:
I love ethics — studying it, reading about it, thinking about it. Unlike everyone in The Good Place, I love moral philosophy professors. And while I’ve read articles and books on many different topics in ethics, I hadn’t seen one focused solely on cheating.

Review:
Have you ever stacked your ships in the same line in Battleship? Have you ‘forgotten’ to report to the IRS the cash earnings from nannying during graduate school? Have borrowed your sorority sister’s paper for the class you’re in, which she got a 4.0 in a year prior?

Have you ever cheated?

In this book, Rhode examines multiple types of cheating, spending a chapter on each. She looks at not just what many of you probably thought of when you saw the title — adultery — but also cheating in sports, at work, on taxes, at school, and committing copyright infringement and cheating related to insurance claims and mortgage applications.

Each chapter offers examples of the types of cheating in that particular area, then looks at what might cause it, and then crucially, what might be an effective way of preventing it. In some cases, that is increasing the punishment (such as corporate malfeasance), while in other areas it means getting creative (such as with making music widely available for low subscription fees).

As you read this, you might balk at some things that she considers cheating, while other things will be very clear. I know so many people who illegally download music and films and see no problem with it, and would be shocked that it is included in such a book. Others might find her stance on how to punish marital infidelity — personally, not legally or financially — to lenient. I think you can make arguments on all sides. But it’s interesting to read and to really think through, especially given who the US President and GOP leadership are right now (and this book came out last year, so the US President is mentioned a few times).

While the book is over 200 pages, it is so thoroughly backed up with research that the notes take up 60 of those pages. It is a pretty quick and easy read, given the subject matter.

Keep it / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it, because while I enjoyed it, I can’t see myself reading it again.

Saturday

5

January 2019

0

COMMENTS

The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper by Tim Mulqueen

Written by , Posted in Reviews

4 Stars

Best for:
Goalies and Goalie Coaches (it’s a bit of a niche market, I’ll grant you).

In a nutshell:
US Men’s National Team Goalkeeper coach (he coached Tim Howard, yo) offers tips for training effective goalkeepers.

Worth quoting:
“The best way to stay on top of the game is by playing along in your head.”

Why I chose it:
I am a goalkeeper who rarely had any proper goalkeeper training. Whoops.

Review:
When I moved to London, I thought team sports — specifically soccer, or football as they call it here — might be a way to meet new people and be a bit social. I grew up playing club soccer, starting at six years old, and becoming a goalkeeper around 11 or 12. I’m very tall for a woman at 6’, and was already like 5’9” when I started high school, so coaches would see me and think ‘well, even if she isn’t good she’ll probably stop some shots by sheer luck thanks to her size.’

I played off an on after college, before joining a co-ed team about eight years ago. It was very casual, no coach, no training, just show up on Sundays. I eventually left, and hadn’t been active in goal for about two years when I googled ‘my neighborhood’ + ‘women’ + ‘football’ and found a club that was not only open to new members, but was actively seeking goalkeepers. Huzzah!

This club has over 30 players, has teams in three leagues, trains every week, and has a manager! A real manager who has played the sport. Unfortunately, however, he is not a goalkeeper coach, and that is a problem. Because, you see, I am not actually very good, despite my years of experience. It could partly be my age (I’ll be 39 this month), but I think it’s mostly I was just stuck in the back and told to try to stop the ball. No training, no technique, no real expectation of improvement. I did take it upon myself to pay for my own training for a couple of months maybe seven years ago, but that was expensive. I did learn something, but not enough. And now I’m playing on a team that is for fun but also – I want to improve. I want to get better!

Wait, this is meant to be a book review, not my personal history with soccer. My bad.

So, the book. I found the tips very helpful. It is full of drills that I’m going to show to my manager, to see if we can start doing some at training. It also has great descriptions of techniques, as well as pictures. But the best part, honestly? The author alternates between referring to men and women keepers. I’d love to get to a gender-neutral they at some point, but also outside of the US women just aren’t seen as soccer players (and inside the US they still make a shit-ton less than the men, when they are demonstrably way better at the sport). So to have the language — and the example pictures! — feature women? That was awesome.

As I mentioned up top, the target audience is extremely small, and people who don’t play are soccer are not going to find it interesting at all. I think it could be beneficial for some field players — especially defenders — to skim it to get a sense of what keepers go through and are thinking about on the field. But it’s best for coaches and goalkeepers, and I’ll be recommending it to them.

Keep it / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it. And possible get a copy for our manager.

Tuesday

1

January 2019

0

COMMENTS

Script & Scribble by Kitty Burns Florey

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for: Those who like trivia about everyday life – in this case, about handwriting. (For example, did you know that a typical pencil can draw a line thirty-five miles long?)

In a nutshell: Author Burns Florey takes the reader on a trip through the history of handwriting, from the very beginning, through those gorgeous (though illegible) tomes produced by monks in the middle ages, up to strict penmanship training in the early 1900s, and ending with contemplation of how handwriting fits into the digital age.

Worth quoting:
“In first grade she had to bring from home an official ‘letter of permission’ to the principal stating that no, it was not okay for her teacher to tie Eileen’s left hand down so that she’d learn to print the alphabet right-handed.”
“The truth is that millions of children are sent out into the world armed with lousy handwriting, great keyboarding skills — and no computer.”

Why I chose it:
I love to write (in journals and using my computer), and I love trivia. Seemed like a good fit.

Review:
Handwriting — specifically, cursive — is near and dear to author Burns Florey’s heart. In this well-researched and well-written (though poorly edited: the footnotes one of the six chapters are mis-numbered and hard to follow) book, she provides us with a history of handwriting, and includes some fascinating images and examples. She covers the tools used (including paper, pens, and pencils), the styles that came into and faded from heavy use, and even the teaching methods employed to improve handwriting. She also spends a good bit of time discussing what we can learn from handwriting, both by exploring handwriting analysis and by looking back at journals and diaries from those who came before us.

Some parts were more interesting than others; I always enjoy a good messy manuscript. Plus it’s a bit mind-boggling to look back at extraordinarily ornate books from the Gothic era and realize that they were meant to be read; I cannot make heads nor tails of many of these admittedly gorgeous scripts.

I found that the book sometimes spoke of two separate things as though they were the same, which convoluted the message. For Burns Florey, handwriting (specifically what people my age likely think of as cursive) is something to be valued and treasured, and she laments that people don’t have great script anymore. I get that — I have a friend who does hand lettering (she designed the logo for my website) and it is a joy to get one of her hand-addressed cards. However, Burns Florey also seems to be concerned that people type instead of write, and these are two very different things in my mind, yet get conflated in her writing.

I definitely appreciate the concern that people sending emails instead of letters written by hand means we won’t have these treasures in the future. But for me, it doesn’t matter if these letters are written in cursive or printed. I still send loads of hand-written notes, but none of them use cursive. I print basically everything. The fact that students today don’t learn cursive doesn’t, I think, mean that they won’t print things. Confusing? A bit, and I can see how easy it would be to intertwine these two concerns and end up with a book that treats them as the same issue. I think I would have appreciated the book more if Burns Florey had spent more time fleshing out the differences between the two.

One section that I think would have been interesting as a stand-alone article in a magazine explored why it is important to teach children handwriting (though, again, there seems to be some conflating of learning write cursive and learning to print). This book was published in early 2009, so computer and internet usage were certainly a big thing, and Burns Florey acknowledges this. But she does also point out that focusing on learning to type over learning to print or handwrite does put some people at a disadvantage: namely, those of lower incomes who are less likely to have a computer in their home. While 80% of children in the US have access to a computer at home, that number drops to 57% when looking at homes earning less than $15,000 / year. Additionally, non-Hispanic white children are more likely to have a computer in their home than Black or Hispanic children. If you can’t write legibly because you aren’t taught that in school, and you don’t have a computer to get your words out, your communication options can be limited. I hadn’t thought about the digital divide in that way before.

I started this book in mid-2018 but made it about 40% of the way through before it began collecting dust on my nightstand. As part of my 2019 reading goals, I’m hoping to either finish off those partially-read books of 2018 or accept that I’m just not that into it and move along. By choosing to just focus on this book this morning, I was able to finish it. That’s not the most ringing of endorsements, but it was an enjoyable and interest read just the same.

Keep it / Donate it / Toss it: Donate it.

Tuesday

1

January 2019

0

COMMENTS

Calm the F**k Down by Sarah Knight

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for: Anyone with anxiety, anyone who tends to worry a bunch, and/or anyone who can find themselves unsure of where to start when something bad happens.

In a nutshell: Author Sarah Knight offers a way to think about the things that keep us up at night so they don’t take over our lives. She is not a doctor, and isn’t suggesting that people with mental health issues that amplify their tendency to worry simply need to calm the fuck down; this book is for those of us who wouldn’t have a diagnosis but still worry way more than we’d like to.

Worth quoting: “Worrying is wasteful. It costs you time, energy, and/or money and gives you nothing useful in return.”

Why I chose it: 2019. New Year! New You! Just kidding. I’m exactly the same today as I was yesterday. But one of my goals for this year is to reduce my anxiety. While traveling recently, I was distracted by the following worries: whether the tiny bump on my cat’s lip was something horrible or just an injury from wrestling with his brother; whether our flight was going to be delayed to the point of missing our connection; if our cat sitter was going to lock herself out of the house, leading our cats to die of hunger or thirst; whether the car reservation at our destination was properly confirmed. Looking over that list, you’ll see that approximately 0% of that was within my control at that moment, yet it was causing my shoulders to rise closer and closer to my ears. Then I saw this book and thought “yeah, I probably should calm the fuck down.”

Review:I’ve read Ms. Knight’s other books, and while they weren’t always what I was looking for, I do like her style and tone. This is definitely my favorite of hers that I’ve read, and I think her approach is one that could really work for me. I’m going to share the basics below (mostly for my own information), but she doesn’t such a great job of illustrating her points — the tarantula story is especially clever — that you should definitely not take the below as a substitute for the real thing.Okay? Let’s go.

The overarching theme is that we should try to get to a point where we can address our worries from a point of logic, not emotion. Hard to do, obviously. But here are the three big points:

  • Acknowledge what has happened
  • Accept what you cannot control
  • Address what you can control

Ms. Knight suggests there are four main faces your worry might take: anxiety, sadness, anger, or denial (she’s calls it ostriching). I have definitely seen my worry turn to anxiety and anger (with the occasional sadness thrown in); I’m not much for completely ignoring problems, but I can see how that might be appealing. This part is helpful if you’re not aware of how you tend to act in moments, but it’s not the most … necessary part of the book.

That comes next, with her repetition around the “one question to rule them all”: Can I Control It? And can I control it within reason. Like, I can control never being the passenger in a plane crash by never flying, but that’s not an option for me. So, once I’m in the plane, can I control whether the plane gets there? Nope.

This point is so key, and possibly so obvious to people who don’t find themselves staring at the ceiling at 3 AM because of something they said at work two weeks ago that literally no one cared about or noticed. But for the rest of us, it helps to be reminded.

The second part of the book really focuses on treating worries logically. She asks us to take a worry and put it on a scale:

  • Highly Unlikely
  • Possible But Not Likely
  • Likely
  • Highly Likely
  • Inevitable

And then, determine the timing: is it outlying, imminent, or already happening? And then, can I control it?

From there, she offers some tips on how to let go of the things that we can’t control. One option is PHEW (productive, helpful, and effective worrying), which is essentially taking action about certain things you can control. For example, with my cat’s lip, once I thought about how we could, if necessary, have a vet come to the home while the cat sitter is there and we’re on vacation, I stopped being so concerned (he’s fine, by the way).

I have generally been fairly good at coming up with solutions to my anxieties, but letting go of the ones I can’t control has been challenging. I think a big part has been treating every worry as equally likely and imminent, which is just absurd. And this book has helped me recognize that.

That said, I can always use some good tips for managing the shitstorms (her word) in my life, and part three of the book offers some. Her principles of dealing with shit include taking stock, identifying my realistic ideal outcome, and then triaging what needs to be done first, second, etc. She illustrates this section with loads of examples, which I enjoyed a lot.

The final part is a choose your own adventure bit, meant to solidify all the concepts, but I didn’t find it to be as helpful. But others might enjoy it!

Keep it / Donate it / Toss it: Keep it. Definitely.